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Writer depicts farm life 100 years ago


Imagine living in Carroll County 100 years ago - no electricity, no cars or tractors, few indoor bathrooms, no grocery stores with ready-to-cook meats and vegetables, no refrigerators, no computers, no TV.

That lifestyle is detailed in a new book by George Grier.

"I started noticing as I got older that the older people who remember something about farming back a hundred years ago were sort of fading out of the picture, and that we were going to lose a lot of what we know about what went on at the old family farm," said Grier, 82.

So he talked to farmers around the state and searched archives, museums and libraries and asked former farm families for photos of a long-gone way of life.

"The Old Family Farm - Farm Life 100 Years Ago" tells stories from the viewpoint of George Shaffer, a fictitious farm boy born and raised on his family's farm south of the Pennsylvania line.

Written so that children can understand it, the book is enjoyable for people of all ages. The book comprises 67 stories on different topics, with 135 photos and sketches.

Grier talked to 101-year-old Rodney Haines of Frizzellburg, who had many memories of farm life at the beginning of the 20th century.

"Children ought to know about that," Grier said. "They didn't have an easy life back then."

To tell his story, Grier made up a family of grandma and grandpa, mother and father and four children. Young George was the third child. The family ran a dairy farm, kept other animals and raised crops such as potatoes - a staple of two daily meals - corn and other vegetables. They also had a small fruit orchard.

Grier used some of his own memories in the book. He grew up on the family farm near Forest Hill in Harford County. His son, Tom, represents the fourth generation to live on the 160-acre farm, which now is part of the agriculture preservation program.

Grier lives on a 30-acre farm on Uniontown Road where he grows corn and soybeans.

"I rode for my first few years in a horse and buggy, and as I grew older I got hold of the cultivator and did the gardens," he recalled. "The big things in my life were the threshing machine that came in once a year. They came to every farm that had wheat and they went from farm to farm. I remember the big dinners my mother had ready for them at noon."

A former 4-H member, Grier is offering the book to 4-H clubs around the state to sell as a fund-raiser, as well as to keep history alive. Carroll and Harford county 4-H'ers are already selling the book.

Local bookstores, the Carroll County Farm Museum and Finch Services, a farm equipment dealer, also have the book, which sells for $14.95.

"There's a lot of little tidbits and sayings that these farmers told me," Grier said.

Four or five of the people he talked to for the book have died. "That's how fast this generation is leaving," he said. "In another generation, there's not going to be anybody left that remembers any of it."

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